Dublin (AP) — Joe Schmidt was anxious about how his Ireland side would fare against South Africa.
In the Springboks’ previous match a month ago, they were pipped by the All Blacks by a point.
So it proved at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, when another mundane South Africa effort was punished by Ireland by a record 38-3.
Victory was expected from the Irish but not the margin or as convincingly. In a series which goes back 111 years, the only better score was South Africa’s 38-0 win in 1912 on the same ground.
Ireland led 14-0 at halftime, punishing South Africa’s weak scrum and ill-discipline. The Springboks were more game in the second half, but still did not look like scoring a try, and were easily contained by the Irish.
The Springboks, forced into errors, cracked in the last 10 minutes, when the Irish ran in three of their four tries. Man-of-the-match Jonathan Sexton scored 14 points from the boot.
“I was really worried before the game, just because of that last game South Africa had played,” coach Schmidt said. “I grew up watching South Africa teams pretty dominant. I don’t actually think this Springbok team is very far away from that. It’s satisfying, it’s a relief.”
Since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where they finished third, the Springboks have lost nine out 10 tests away from home.
It frustrates coach Allister Coetzee.
“Our inconsistency for me is something I’d like to see improve in a big way,” Coetzee said. “The Jekyll and Hyde element; at times we play well.
“I cannot see anything like this changing in a short space of time. It’s difficult to explain (the defeat); there are no positives from our side to be honest.”
South Africa was rocked in the second minute when tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen, coming back from a broken arm, was hit in a double tackle and left holding his left arm. The highly rated Wilco Louw replaced Oosthuizen, but the Boks scrum struggled. It conceded penalties, and constantly went backwards. A scrum penalty gave Sexton his first points, and the Springboks were penalized at scrum time twice more before the quarter hour, followed by a referee warning.
Sexton kicked over more penalties in the 15th and 20th minutes for 9-0.
Coetzee warned the Springboks to expect being bombed, and they conceded the first try from an up-and-under by scrumhalf Conor Murray. It fell between three South Africans outside their 22, and Ireland winger Andrew Conway pinched it and ran 25 meters unopposed to the right corner.
Despite Coetzee also talking about the importance of taking three-pointers, they turned down a kickable penalty on the half hour, and wasted a two-minute siege of the Irish try-line. They finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with an Elton Jantjies penalty.
The Springboks upped their intensity and physicality, but creatively they had nothing.
In the 71st minute, Ireland substitute flanker Rhys Ruddock burrowed over and made victory certain.
The Irish bench was making more of an impact that the South Africans’, and a lineout drive ended with Rob Herring scoring.
Sexton’s replacement, Joey Carbury, put a clever kick down the left wing with the clock almost in the red, Darren Sweetnam did well to keep it in play, the ball was switched right, and Ireland had the numbers. Left winger Jacob Stockdale scored in his home debut, and sealed Ireland’s fifth win over South Africa in their last seven tests in Dublin.
Ireland face Fiji next Saturday, and South Africa play France on a five-match winless run.